Thursday, February 12, 2009

Jane Austen plus zombies equals box-office gold

I’m not a bitter man, but I really, really hate Seth Grahame-Smith.

Who is this fellow with the hyphenated last name, you ask? And why do I sometimes find myself wishing he’s come down with a permanent case of African sleeping sickness?

Grahame-Smith is the man who has come up with the most brilliant, most lucrative and yet laziest idea I’ve heard of in ages.

He has re-written Jane Austen’s classic novel “Pride and Prejudice” — and added zombies.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is scheduled for publication in May, but Hollywood studios are already bidding for the movie rights. Grahame-Smith is about to be quite financially secure. And for what? Adding zombies to a classic novel.

In fact, according to one newspaper account, Grahame-Smith admits that 85 percent of his novel is from Austen’s original text. He had to do only 15 percent of the work. Yet, because Austen is dead — and not a zombie — and because her book is in the public domain, he gets to keep all of his Hollywood riches to himself. Well, except for what he has to fork over to the government.

There is only one word for this. “Brilliant.” Or “lazy.” But mainly it’s brilliant, because the laziness is part of why it’s so brilliant.

What’s killing me is that I didn’t come up with it. Brilliant and lazy is what I do. For example, this column. It required no more research than reading an article in Variety and searching Google for “Seth Grahame-Smith” so I could know exactly where to direct my righteous fury. For the record, Grahame-Smith is a film and TV writer/producer in Los Angeles. He also writes for The Huffington Post, a liberal political blog. His Internet Movie Database page is, well, lacking. But I assume that will change soon enough.

Now I’m even angrier with myself. I’ve written for high-traffic blogs, so where is my book deal?

More to the point, however, why didn’t I come up with “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”? Why are movie studios not calling my agent, besides the fact I don’t have an agent? These are the questions I’ll take to my grave.

I mean, it didn’t even have to be “Pride and Prejudice.” It could have been almost anything. “Sense and Sensibility and Zombies”? Sounds like a winner to me. “Oliver Twist and Zombies”? A zombie infestation could only improve any Charles Dickens novel. “Vanity Fair and Zombies”? Genius!

Granted, I haven’t read the book yet. For all I know, Grahame-Smith’s 15-percent contribution could be the most brilliant, witty, sparkling prose since Oscar Wilde died of wallpaper poisoning in a Paris hotel room. But it could be utter rubbish and still net him a movie deal worth in the high six figures.
“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is, as they say in Hollywood, a “high concept” piece. High concept projects are anything you can sell to a movie executive with a sentence like “It’s something you’ve heard of meets something else you’ve heard of.”

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is “Pride and Prejudice” meets zombies. How much more high concept can you get? The idea sells itself. It’s a bonus that Hollywood can’t get enough of either zombie movies or Jane Austen adaptations. Here you get both. Put Keira Knightley in a period costume and stick Rob Zombie behind the camera, and you’re guaranteed a $100 million opening weekend. Probably. I’d know I’d pay to see Mr. Darcy eat Elizabeth Bennet’s brain. (I hope that’s actually in the book.)

Well, never again. Listen up, Hollywood. I have my own high-concept movie. It’s called “Kung-Fu Biker Zombies vs. the Vampire Strippers from Hell.” It’s “Easy Rider” meets “Dawn of the Dead” meets “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” meets “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” meets “Showgirls.” I think Quentin Tarantino would be perfect to direct, and I spent the entire weekend fleshing out the story.

Call my agent. As soon as I get one.

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